Giuseppa Bolognara Calcagno, better known as Peppa the cannon lady, was born in Barcellona Pozzo di Grotto (Messina). Abandoned by the biological parents, after a difficult childhood spent in an orphanage in Catania, Giuseppina had an affair with a young revolutionary (Vann) supporting the movement for the “Unity of Italy” in 1860. When the anti Bourbon insurgency rose in Catania and the insurgents, led by Colonel Giuseppe Poulet resisted the attack of the Neapolitan troops, Poppa decided she needed to help.
In the full of the clashes in the streets of Catania, Peppa managed to catch the enemy by surprise and took possession of an unattended cannon. She then spread gunpowder over the muzzle and set it on fire. The Bourbon cavalry approached. Having seen the smoke coming out of the cannon, they were sure that the cannon was unloaded. Peppa, remained bravely in her position, ready to shoot with the same cannon which she just had taken. So it was that Giuseppa Bolognara managed to hit the Bourbon army and get to safety together with the cannon, which she delivered to the headquarter of the revolutionaries. Her young companion, Vanni, however, did not survive in that battle.
When the Bourbon troops retreated from Catania, Peppa remained with the revolutionaries and When it came time to conquer Syracuse, still under the banner of the Bourbon King Francis II, Peppa decided to take part in the new battle taking off her female clothes and dressing up as a man. This change of clothing she will keep well into the future.
Once the Italian nation got formed, for hes participation in the revolution, Giuseppina was decorated with the silver medal for military valor. She was given a pension from the state, which amounted to nine ducats per month. Some claim that she finally went back to Messina, where she was born.
1. Wikipedia, https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giuseppa_Bolognara_Calcagno
2. 150Anni.it, http://www.150anni.it/webi/index.php?s=58&wid=1865